You Are What You Eat: Macronutrients 101

This age-old adage should truly be changed to, “You are what you burn,” because those of us who preferentially burn fat as opposed to sugar, metabolically speaking, are not only going to be leaner but healthier, longer. So how does one accomplish this? It’s easier than you think and works one hundred percent of the time. Why? The science never fails. Your body rigorously adheres to certain physiologic principles. Show it the proper signals, and it responds in kind. One such signal is called a macronutrient. At base level, “macros” are the basic components of food you eat. Let’s keep this simple.

Know this. Carbohydrates are an energy source, plain and simple. There are essentially two types, low and high glycemic index (GI) varieties. High glycemic index carbohydrates (sugar, rice, bread) taste sweet; low ones don’t (broccoli, kale, lettuce, onions). High glycemic index carbohydrates “instruct” the body (through the hormone insulin) to store all surpluses as fat, while low glycemic index carbohydrates, nearly invisible to the body, “instruct” it to burn fat by maintaining insulin levels at bay. Do you now understand why eating Twizzlers on the couch at 10 PM is a bad idea? You’re signaling the body to store fat and accelerating the aging process by encouraging free radical release. Distilled down (and this is a generalization): High glycemic index carbohydrates are bad and therefore should be avoided, low glycemic carbohydrates are good.

So you want to know which carbohydrates are considered low-GI versus those that are considered high GI? My threshold is different than most. In my practice, I only allow carbohydrates of glycemic indices <40. This maintains insulin levels at bay, driving fat loss, lowering bodily inflammation and free radical burden. More of this later when we discuss insulin.

Protein. That’s the stuff that bodybuilders eat to get big, right? Well, sort of. Proteins are the basic building blocks of muscle, but they also are integral to a myriad of metabolic reactions (You’ve heard the word “enzyme,” I assume? Those are proteins.), the transportation of molecules and DNA replication. Absent proteins well… you would be absent.

But forget about the biochemistry for now. Understand simply that you must eat adequate amounts of protein daily to support your muscle mass and to promote tissue recovery (in the wake of heavy strength training sessions). Your very “metabolically expensive” muscle will otherwise be shed and shed fast. This will result in metabolic slowdown – particularly in the context of a caloric deficit – something you desperately want to avoid.

Fat. Like carbohydrates, fat is an energy source. It’s also the unsightly stuff around our waistlines. Your spare tire is nothing more than a large energy storage depot, the product of overconsumption of carbohydrates and therefore high levels of circulating insulin. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. That’s a myth. On the contrary, eating fat and in particular anti-inflammatory fat such as that from cold water fish, makes you leaner. Huh? You heard me. The consumption of fat encourages the body to burn fat. It also supports the body calorically speaking, boasting 9 kcal/gram. So don’t believe the hype! Eat fat liberally and unapologetically.

Want your own customized macronutrient-based nutrition program? Read about it here.

OR join our private FB group F.R.O.G. and ask Melissa (FB page administrator) to calculate your macros for you. Forever Reaching One’s Goals is an elite source of health and fitness-related information run by former Navy SEAL Ray Care and myself.